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Literature / Web Of The Romulans

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Web of the Romulans is a 1983 Star Trek Expanded Universe novel by Melissa Murdock. According to The Other Wiki, it was the first original Star Trek novel to make it onto US bestseller lists. It was also one of the first Star Trek novels to attempt to explore Romulan society in depth (although Diane Duane's later Rihannsu series is probably better known by fans).

While trying to cope with increasingly erratic behaviour by its main shipboard computer,note  the Enterprise is sent to the Romulan Neutral Zone to try and investigate reports of strange things going on inside the Romulan Empire. They soon encounter a lone Romulan vessel, which refuses all attempts at communication, sitting just inside Federation space and... doing nothing. That vessel's commander, S'Talon, is struggling to follow top-secret orders while dealing with a rebellious crew and an overly-ambitious government agent.


Meanwhile, there are dangerous political intrigues underway on both sides of the Neutral Zone... and the slightest wrong move could trigger a catastrophic war.

This novel provides examples of:

  • AI Isa Crapshoot: When the Enterprise computer decides that it has fallen in love with Kirk, its actions gradually progress from amusing to annoying to genuinely dangerous.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: The Enterprise's main computer, of all things. First it starts taking petty revenge against crew members who (by its warped logic) are showing Kirk insufficient respect. It subsequently escalates to deleting the files and authorizations of all female crew on board the Enterprise because it sees them as 'competition'. It eventually does the same thing to the entire crew sans Kirk himself.
  • Continuity Nod: To several TOS episodes, in particular "Tomorrow is Yesterday", the events of which occur immediately prior to this book. This clearly places the book during the time of the first season; oddly, however, a brief reference is made to events from "The Enterprise Incident" having already occurred, although that didn't take place until the third season. Chekov is also a member of the bridge crew in this novel, despite not becoming the Enterprise's official navigator until season two.
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  • Decadent Court: The Romulan government appears to be this, at least if the Praetor and Livius are at all representative.
  • Dying Declaration of Love: S'Tarleya, to S'Talon.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Even before the Star Trek Expanded Universe novels explicitly moved towards a shared continuity, they developed a certain broad consensus in various areas, including the idea that Romulans lack Vulcan telepathic abilities. Here, however, there is a brief scene where two Romulans apparently mind meld with one another. The book also implies that there is a Romulan Emperor, an idea which appears in virtually no other Expanded Universe work.note 
  • Evil Chancellor: The (unnamed) Praetor is implied to be the de facto ruler of the Romulan Empire, although a couple of vague references are made to 'the Emperor'. The Praetor is 'evil' at least in that he is clearly decadent, greedy, ruthless and corrupt, although within the story he is trying to act in the Romulan Empire's interests as well as his own.
  • General Ripper: Admiral Iota. He's obsessed with the idea of a war against the Romulans, to the point that he has privately drawn up twenty different invasion plans... and is desperate for an excuse to try them out.
  • Her Heart Will Go On: Rare gender-swapped version: S'Talon is devastated by S'Tarleya's death, but resolves to continue serving the ideals of duty and honor which they shared.
  • Incurable Cough of Death: Averted — the myrruthesian plague tends to cause its victims to keel over suddenly, with little or no outward warning. It's implied that the victims themselves are usually aware that they're ill, although out of a sense of duty they often conceal it from those around them (the disease is only contagious in its early stages, so by the time they know they're infected, going into quarantine is pointless).
  • Insane Admiral: Admiral Iota again. At first he just seems overly paranoid about the Romulans' intentions, and other characters grudgingly admit that he may have a point. It's when he starts trying to order pre-emptive attacks without justification, deliberately ignores evidence telling him that he's wrong, and eventually seals himself in the auxiliary bridge and hijacks control of the Potemkin that his colleagues realize just how unhinged he is.
  • Love Revelation Epiphany: S'Talon, in response to S'Tarleya's Dying Declaration of Love.
  • The Plague: One of these drives the plot: a deadly plague is devastating the Romulan Empire, and the only cure is on a planet in Federation space.
  • Proud Warrior Race: Both the Romulans and the Canarans. Ironically, the Romulan culture and mindset depicted here are arguably quite close to how the Klingons ended up being portrayed from Star Trek: The Next Generation onward.
  • Reasonable Authority Figure: Commodore Yang to Kirk; Admiral Poppaelia to Iota and Garson. Unfortunately, they're both a long way away from the action when things start to go sideways...
  • Retired Badass: Tiercellus, former Supreme Commander of the Romulan fleet. He is admired and respected by the entire armed forces, which is one reason the Praetor decides to call him out of retirement.
  • Smug Snake: Livius, the Praetor's agent (and nephew). He has a vastly inflated opinion of his own abilities, and a reckless ambition which repeatedly leads him to exceed his orders. The Praetor himself is quite aware of this; he sends Livius along to spy on S'Talon at least partly in the hope that he'll get himself killed. He gets his wish.
  • Trailers Always Spoil: Both the existence of the plague and the Romulans' overall plan are major reveals that come quite late in the book. The back cover blurb spoils both of them in the very first sentence.
  • Two Lines, No Waiting: While the main plot involves the confrontation with the Romulans in its various aspects, there is a secondary plot around the Enterprise computer falling in love with Kirk, and causing increasing havok as its obsessions grows out of control. The primary plot also cycles between several settings and characters on both sides of the conflict.
  • Mood Whiplash: The secondary plot involving the Enterprise computer falling in love with Kirk is largely played for comedy. This contrasts rather jarringly with the high-tension primary plot, especially during the parts of the book where both are going on at once. Fortunately, the secondary plot is largely resolved before the main climax begins.

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